Florida offense stifled by Kentucky

The Gators left Starkville last weekend with their offense on a roll, but it has come to a halt since returning to Gainesville.

After scoring just two runs in a win over Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday, the Florida offense mustered just five hits and no runs while falling to Kentucky 3-0 in the series opener. It was the first time Florida has been shut out this season, and the Gators fell to 1-3 in SEC home series openers this year.

Wildcats right-hander Zack Brown led the way with seven shutout innings, and even though the Kentucky bullpen walked three hitters over the final two innings, it was enough to quiet the Florida offense.

Brown kept Florida off balance, spotting his fastball to both sides of the plate as high as 95 mph. He threw his slider for strikes and bounced it on the plate to get swings and misses, and the Gators struggled to get anything going against him.

“You guys saw the game -- he had a firm fastball, competed and made pitches when he needed to,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He pitched really good. We had very few opportunities, but when we did, we just didn’t have good at bats. We just didn’t do much with the opportunities we had. (Brown) threw his breaking ball for strikes, even if he was behind in the count. He deserves a lot of credit. I don’t think it’s an easy thing to shut us out at home, but he pitched really well.”

In the first seven innings, Florida had just five hits and four were singles. Richie Martin extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a one-out double in the first inning. After that, Florida got just four runners past first base the rest of the way.

When the Gators got Brown out of the game after seven innings, it didn’t change much. The Kentucky bullpen allowed the Gators to get the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but pinch-hitter Taylor Lane struck out in just his 12th at-bat of the season.

“He threw really good, spun the ball and located,” Florida right fielder Ryan Larson said. “Hats off to him, he kind of took it to us tonight. Our approach hasn’t been good. There’s work to be done. Tuesday night we came out with low energy, and unfortunately it has carried into this weekend.”

Florida starting pitcher Logan Shore didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept the team in it. He gave up a run in the second inning after a pop up into short right field turned into a triple when second baseman Dalton Guthrie dove after it but couldn’t make the catch, pushing the ball down the right field line. In the third inning, Shore allowed three straight two-out singles to produce another run.

Shore exited after allowing a one-out single in the eighth inning, but right-hander Taylor Lewis allowed the run to score after a walk and a single, pushing the Kentucky lead to 3-0.

“I felt good, but I didn’t make a couple pitches when I needed to,” Shore said. “It cost us and it cost me. I just left the fastball up a little bit.”

The Gators will try to even the series on Saturday at 7 p.m. Sophomore right-hander Dane Dunning (4-1, 3.02) will get the start.

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